the centuries the Order of Carmel has been blessed
with many saintly sons and daughters. Best known
to us are those whose writings on the mystical life
continue to guide and teach people in all walks
of life today. Saint Teresa, whose Life
and Interior Castle tell the story
of her journey to God and her way of prayer, was
proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI
John of the Cross, twenty-seven years younger than
St. Teresa, but her equal in the depth of his union
with God, is considered by many to be the greatest
poet of the Spanish language. His major works, The
Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul,
The Spiritual Canticle, and The Living
Flame of Love are commentaries on his poems,
and were written, he said, "for those who desire
to reach union with God quickly." For many, they
provide a sure and certain path to God through the
darkness and trials of this life.
It was in France at the end of the nineteenth century
that there lived the Carmelite whom Pope Pius XI
hailed as "the greatest saint of modern times."
She is Saint Therese of Lisieux, known to the world
as "the Little Flower." Her autobiography,
The Story of a Soul, reveals her life as
an all-embracing response to God's merciful love.
It is a way of love open to all "little ones", to
every ordinary person. Saint Therese was named a
Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
to our own time is Edith Stein, Saint Teresa Benedicta
of the Cross. Born into a Jewish family in Breslau,
Poland in 1891, she studied phenomenology with Edmund
Husserl and became a noted philosopher, scholar
and lecturer in prewar Germany. After reading the
Life of Saint Teresa of Avila, Edith
converted to Catholicism on New Year's Day, 1922.
During the next ten years Edith became well known
in Catholic Germany as a teacher and speaker, particularly
on topics concerning the place of women in the modern
world. By 1933 those of Jewish background were forbidden
to teach in Germany, and Edith fulfilled her long
held desire by entering the Cologne Carmel. Because
of increasing Nazi repression of the Jews and her
fear that her presence in the Carmel would bring
reprisal on the Sisters, Edith decided to seek refuge
in the Carmel of Echt, Holland at the end of 1938.
After the Nazi occupation of Holland, however, she
was arrested in 1942 in reprisal for a pastoral
letter written by the Dutch bishops against genocide.
She died in Auschwitz in August, 1942. To the end
of her life, Edith felt a deep identification with
her suffering Jewish brothers and sisters. When
the SS men appeared at the Carmel to arrest Edith
and her sister, Rosa, she said, "Come, Rosa, we
are going for our people." Her life and death give
witness that love conquers hate and evil, and that
the Cross is the symbol of that triumph. Saint Teresa
Benedicta was canonized in 1998.